My sister bought a Lenovo ThinkPad T61 recently, and (surprise, surprise) it only came with the 32-bit version of Windows Vista. In fact, it only came with a 4GB recovery partition on the hard drive. No Windows installation disc, no recovery CD, nothing. The idea was that if something bad happens, you press the ThinkVantage button and load a fresh factory installation image from the recovery partition. And of course, this way, there is no getting away from all the lovely pre-installed bloatware that makes even the fastest PC crawl (to give Lenovo some credit, most of the pre-installed ThinkVantage utilities are actually quite useful). Also, you can never install 64-bit version because you never got the 64-bit version. And apparently, some vendors (e.g. Dell) are refusing to give out 64-bit OEM discs to their customers who only got 32-bit discs citing a “business contract” with Microsoft (which sounds like a complete bullshit, by the way).
It seems like the solution to this is to borrow a 64-bit disc from a friend who bought Windows Vista retail (all retail versions of Windows Vista, except Home Basic, come with both 32-bit and 64-bit installation discs) and install it with your own key. You know, from the Microsoft Certificate of Authenticity (COA) sticker on the computer.
Not so fast. Microsoft does not allow you activate Windows Vista installed using a retail disc with an OEM key. You will be able to install, but once the 30-day grace period is over, you will get locked into “Reduced Functionality Mode.”
There is a way to get around this though. Here’s how.
DISCLAIMER: THE DIRECTION IS PROVIDED FOR INFORMATION ONLY. I CANNOT BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY DAMAGE YOU MAY CAUSE TRYING TO FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS.
- First, you will need a 64-bit Vista disc. Borrow it from a friend, or order a 64-bit Windows Anytime Upgrade disc (which is essentially same as the retail 64-bit disc) here.
- Don’t do anything yet with the disc though. You need to extract some information from your current OEM factory installation.
- You need two bits of information. The first one is your factory OEM key. This key is different from the one written on the COA sticker. Follow the instruction on this website to extract the key.
- Write this key down. You will need it to install the 64-bit disc.
- Go the following directory:
<Your Windows Directory>\ServiceProfiles\NetworkService
- You can’t enter the directory directly into your address bar because some directories require administrator previlege clearance. You will get an error if you try to. Get to the directory by browsing and clicking on Windows Explorer.
- You will also need to make hidden folders visible as AppData directory is hidden. (If you don’t know how to do this, you should probably stop right now. You’re going to mess up your computer.)
- Once you get to the
SoftwareLicensingdirectory, copy the
Token.datto another directory.
- We must now take a peek inside Token.dat and extract the OEM certificate from it.
- You need a hex editor such as HxD.
- Open the
- Search for the following string: “
- Find the string “
<?xml” directly preceding the string “
- Find the string “
</r:license>” directly succeeding “
- Select from the “
<?xml” to “
</r:license>” and copy into another file.
- Save the file with
.xrm-msfile extension onto an external media (USB key, web hard drive such as box.net, whatever).
- You might want to save the
Token.datto an external media too just in case you’ve made a mistake while extracting the OEM certificate portion.
- Put in the 64-bit Vista disc and start the install process. Use the factory OEM key you’ve extracted in step 3.
- Once the install is complete, copy the
.xrm-msfile onto the hard drive.
- Open “Command Prompt” with administrator privileges.
- Within the command prompt, navigate to the directory where
- Type the following and press enter:
slmgr.vbs -ilc <Name of your .xrm-ms file>
- Go to Control Panel – System and Maintenance – System. Scroll down to the bottom. It should now say that Windows is activated. If not, it’s not my fault.